Peruvian authorities identify Shining Path’s new leader

A 30-year-old former university student is now top guerrilla

Shining Path leader "Artemio" is escorted to a military courtroom last December.
Shining Path leader "Artemio" is escorted to a military courtroom last December. ENRIQUE CASTRO (REUTERS)

Peruvian authorities have identified the Shining Path's new leader as a 30-year-old former social science student who joined Peru's notorious terrorist group in 2005, a Lima daily reported on Sunday.

Franklin Grover Tello Ichaccaya, who is known as "Lucio," was born in Huamanga, Ayacucho and took over from Víctor Hugo Castro Ramírez — known as Comrade William — who was killed in an ambush last September, reported El Comercio, quoting secret judicial records. Tello is thought to be hiding out with other Shining Path members in the Vraem zone — the valley surrounded by the rivers Apurímac, Eney and Mantaro in south central Peru.

According to intelligence sources, it was Tello's father who took his three sons to an area where coca growers and drug traffickers operate. In 2005, Tello decided to join a Shining Path unit that was then led by Víctor Quispe Palomino, known as Comrade José.

His mother was killed in 1988 in the Vraem valley, according to intelligence sources, but the reasons behind her killing are unclear. Nevertheless, the judicial file on Tello shows that after his father was killed in an ambush he began giving classes "to the masses" on Marxist revolutionary thought. After studying for three years at the University of San Cristóbal de Huamanga (UNSCH), Tello left school to join the guerrilla movement.

With the capture of its founder Abimael Guzmán in 1992, the Shining Path was disbanded. But in recent years it has begun to reorganize in the dense Vraem area as a drug-trafficking group.

In a related matter, the ongoing military trial against another former leader, Florinda Eleuterio Flores Hala, alias "Artemio," continued this week with witnesses called in to testify about his help in financing the campaigns of two former lawmakers from Peru's communist party. Flores Hala, who is being held at the highly secure Callao Naval Base, is being charged with terrorism, drug trafficking and child rape. He was captured in February 2012 during an ambush with soldiers that left him wounded.

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